He was the 17-year-old kid plucked from obscurity to carry Joe Cornish’s ghetto alien invasion flick Attack The Block (review). A year older and a little wiser, rising star John Boyega talked all thing Attack The Block with Bloody Disgusting at Comic-Con over the weekend.
Attack The Block follows a teen gang in South London as they try to defend their block from an alien invasion. Written and directed by Joe Cornish, with Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim, Hot Fuzz, Shaun Of The Dead) onboard as executive producer, the genre flick is shaping up to be one of the indie hits of the year. Applauded by critics and audiences alike, Boyega has emerged as one of the film’s breakout stars for his stoic portrayal of gang leader Moses. Below, he talks horror, Hollywood and the pressure to be Bruce Willis.
On the horror and sci-fi genres: “I was a fan of the sci-fi stuff, I like the early Halloween films, they creeped me out. I like the fact that this guy’s a normal human being but he still doesn’t die. I think that’s incredible. I watched E.T and all that, but they weren’t made in my time. My time was Transformers 1 and 3. We’d get that through Channel 5 late at night when you’d come home from church and watch a lil’ bit of Goonies or or The Warriors. It was cool the film was going in that kind of root because urban films back in the UK, you don’t have that sci-fi film with epic shots and orchestral music and scenes where I basically live and walk past everyday. I’m just so happy to be a part of that movement and it’s the first that’s ever done that. It’s going to set the bar for other kinds of genres, it’s great to be a part of it.”
On the audition process: “At the time I was doing my first job as a professional actor on stage in North London. Joe, Nira Park, the producer, and Nina Gold, the casting director, came to see me and I was on stage for 10 minutes. After that it was just recall after recall, it was crazy. I’m came back more that six times and then I got the part. Then Mr Cornish told me I had the part after the first audition, he just wanted to see my chemistry with the others.”
On the urban dialogue: “He (Joe Cornish) wanted to give it a heightened, sci-fi feel. But then at the same time, when kids their age get scared they say the dumbest stuff, like “it’s too much madness for one text.” We had a lot freedom and we worked closely with Joe. It’s the closest urban script I’ve ever read. I’m from South London, but when I’m with my boys and the energy . . . there’s something you just cant explain. It was fun to have that sort of script.”
On Nick Frost: “We call him Uncle Nick. Nick is like your all year round Santa Claus, you know?”
On how his parents view him after the role: “My mum sees me in a different light, she thinks I’m an action superhero. So therefore whenever she hears something creaking downstairs in the kitchen she’s like ‘John, you get it. Do something like you did in the film.’ Dad thinks I’m incredibly cool, but he still wants me to get to the level of Bruce Willis because he’s a big Bruce Willis fan. I asked him the other day, I said ‘dad, do you respect me more than Bruce Willis?’ and he said ‘yeah . . .no.”
On his fellow teenage co-stars: “It’s great, we’ve all kind of shared our first films together and are working on our own films now. The first person I met was Alex Esmail who plays Pest and he was so talkative. He was like yap yap yap yap and he was eating this bacon sandwich or something and then we went into the auditions and responded to each other really well. At one stage we were all in there, the same cast today, and we didn’t know we’d got the roles and we were all like ‘what if we got the roles? That would be sick, wouldn’t it?’ It was fantastic bonding and now we’re just the best of friends.”
On the stunts: “It was crazy. We had stunt doubles for some parts, but most of the stuff we did it ourselves. We did a bike riding course through witches cones, trained with stunt co-coordinators on the dirt bikes, it was mad. On the DVD extras you’re going to see me doing a lot of roly-poly’s on the floor and my BMX going in one direction, me in the other. It was amazing. I knew I was going to run in slow motion with the vest (at the end) so I can’t lie to you, I wasn’t like that before. I went straight to the gym and cried pumping weights. It was such a great experience, we just had such a blast.”
On Edgar Wright: “He’s just like Batman, I don’t think that’s him – it’s just a mask. That’s not who he is, he’s Bruce Wayne. Edgar was fantastic. Although we didn’t get to see him much on set, we knew very much about what he was doing and how his actions were affecting the film because obviously Joe and Edgar have been friends for a long time now and Joe looks up to Edgar and is very inspired by his work. It was very important that Edgar and Joe had that kind of relationship and it pushed Edgar to make the film the best it could be in its own ilk away from Hot Fuzz and Shaun Of The Dead and helping Joe get to a good place where he could say I’ve made my own movie and it’s a Joe Cornish movie, but with that magic and wisdom from Edgar Wright.”
On breaking into Hollywood: “I’m an audience member as much as an actor. I would love to do something of the same ilk but a different character. I’m very much into creating other people so that when you watch me on screen and see me in real life, you can say those are two totally different people. That’s the magic of acting. I just got signed by CAA management and the scripts that I’ve been getting have been very, very interesting in terms of people not giving me the same old. The way they want to go is of epic proportions, let me just say that. I may be leading some sort of army again.”
On actors that inspire him: “I love actors who are doing the work and I believe in actors who are creating roles as an audience member. We owe the audience a service and a lot of actors forget that when they reach stardom. (I admire) The actors who haven’t forgotten that like Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Andrew Garfield, Tom Hardy, who are all working at creating different personalities instead of being one actor in just different circumstances. Those actors inspire me and I remember walking through downstairs and I saw Andrew Garfield in the lobby in the Spiderman suit and I felt so proud – I haven’t even met the guy.”